from the birth of “FIFA” to the name change, thirty years of evolution

“The vintages FIFAIt’s like wine, there are good years and bad years. † Since 1997, the trade journal joystick predicted the ups and downs of the long career to come for this series of successful video games. That year, the journalist opposed “the picket” FIFA 97 until “good vintage” FIFA 98: Towards the World Cup

The Electronic Arts (EA) franchise, which has been declining by one episode a year since 1993, faces an ongoing challenge: to reuse the same recipe every year while maintaining the public’s attention.

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However, his career spanning almost thirty years reveals some important turning points that tell both the evolution of the video game medium and the irresistible success of this license, each variation of which has been at the top of annual sales in France since 2014 .

Also read: ‘FIFA 22’ and ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ dominated video game sales in 2021

But the year 2022 is that of an unprecedented turn for FIFA : On May 10, after months of negotiations with the International Football Federation, EA announced that the flagship game would be renamed from the summer of 2023, EA Sports FC† On this occasion, a look back at nine key episodes that have transformed FIFA

1990: The Outsider

  • FIFA International Soccer” (1993): first goals

When it was released on Megadrive in December 1993, FIFA is immediately praised for its technical realism: “real game tactics in the cartridge”, makes the specialized magazine enthusiastic Player One. The effort on the soundtrack and the character animations also provides more immersion than the competition. “I had never seen such a series of moves for a simple player”, notes the journalist joystick when released on PC.

This success in Europe comes as a total surprise to EA, which is more focused on American football (madden) or ice hockey (NHL‘Internally people didn’t even know what FIFA was’entrusted to World in 2015 Marc Aubanel. The first producer of the series explains that the American publishing house decided to take the risk in particular because of the organization of the World Cup in the United States in 1994.

  • “FIFA Soccer 96”: Entering Modernity

Far from the most successful episode, the third FIFA nevertheless determines the DNA of the series. Thanks to an agreement with the International Federation of Professional Football Associations (Fifpro), the simulation uses the real names of the players for the first time. Before that, developers attached fanciful or vaguely suggestive names to athletes and teams. FIFA 96 achieves another major transformation by offering 3D graphics for the first time.

  • “FIFA 98”: world champion… of virtual football

In December 1997, the French team was not yet world champion but FIFA 98: Towards the World Cup (and a few months, his quasi-twins, the game World Cup 98) stands out as one of the pinnacles of video game football of the 1990s. An opus that bets on immersion with 6,400 footballers, 172 national teams, 189 clubs, 11 leagues and, for the first time, virtual replicas of real stadiums. Match commentary by professionals, Thierry Gilardi and David Ginola for the French version, find their place in the simulation for the first time. Finally, the pop soundtrack marks the ghosts. It contains the intoxicating Song 2 from Blur, that’s 90s rock, what? FIFA 98 is in video games: a classic.

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2000s: Confronting “PES”

  • “FIFA 2001”: offside

On the technical side, FIFA 2001 is a pioneer because it offers online matches on PC for the first time. This device is essential today. But playfully the legacy is weak. The purists prefer him then ISS Pro Evolution 2 (2000), the final installment of the competing series International superstar football, launched in 1994 by Japanese studio Konami. This creates a formidable rivalry between FIFA and ISS, has meanwhile become Pro Evolution FootballESP

The latter is gradually emerging as ” a “pure and hard” simulation [qui] reproduces the gestures, techniques and rhythm of a real football match as close to reality as possible”, as noted the Parisian in 2006, unlike the “easy approach” by FIFA† For half a dozen years, the popularity of FIFA flutters, while ESP steals its place in the hearts of gamers.

  • “FIFA 09”: Successful Transition to HD

FIFA 08 al, the first installment designed for the PlayStation 3 generation, started a revival for FIFAthanks to a new game engine in which that of ESP suddenly seemed very clumsy. FIFA 09 confirms this shift and ensures that EA’s game gradually regains its leading position in football simulation. “An intimidating year”, written at the time Geneva Grandstand† « FIFA has become more expensive and offers an even more authentic simulation”, analyze it New York Times

Read : “FIFA”, the football game that has become the best-selling cultural product in France

FIFA 09 also takes risks. It offers the integration of ten against ten online games and a mode where you can only play one character in a team. EA also integrates the virtual card game Soccer Ultimate Team (FUT)whose built-in microtransactions generate significant revenues.

At launch,

From the 2010s: Ballon d’Or

At the time, the series also capitalized on the public's enthusiasm for the two exceptional players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.  The end of the Argentine star's contract with
  • “FIFA 2017”: forward the stories

By offering an increasingly finer ball control, FIFA 101112 and 13 establish their dominance and are still today, according to rating aggregator Metacritic, one of the most popular episodes after their release. But how do you enrich a formula that is considered nearly perfect? After adding the female teams in the previous episode, FIFA 2017 companies on the side of fiction. This highly scripted “Story” mode offers the opportunity to follow the journey of Alex Hunter’s character over several years.

Always more visually appealing and more varied in content, FIFA 17 is a triumph in store. It established itself as the best-selling console game in the world in 2016 and crushed in passing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, from Activision.

  • “FIFA 20”: The Escape From Confinement

The lockdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic put an end to football matches. The practice of online football goes much further than the practice of sports. FIFA (the federation) finds itself in an unimaginable situation: the fees paid for the exploitation of the license ($158 million) will become its first source of income that year.

FIFA 20 attracts more players than ever (25 million unique players, according to EA). Mainly, FIFA Ultimate Team, a variant in which you assemble your team with the players in virtual surprise bags is becoming more popular than the base game mode. Since then, the Belgian justice has forced the publisher to block purchases in real currency in USED ​​TO BE, principle that equates it to games of chance. Other legal proceedings against him have been launched in Canada, the United States, France and the Netherlands.

A 30-year-old who changes his name

  • “EA Sports FC”: first of the name

From 2023, those who used to “got a little FIFA” will have to change their habits. According to the New York TimesThirty years after its launch, the simulation will change its name after the Women’s World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

The heated debate this announcement sparked online months before it was made official reveals that FIFA is much more than just a video game: it has risen to become an icon of popular culture, quoted in rap songs or hijacked in memes.

Rest assured, digital football enthusiasts are unlikely to change much for the most part of the 2023 vintage. The end of the partnership with FIFA does not condemn it to the loss of the use of the names of the players, assured by a contract with Fifpro renegotiated in 2021, or of the various championships negotiated with their organizers. Only the World Cup and specific events organized should be removed from the game by FIFA.